Contemporary Alternatives: Madden Edition

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not particularly a fan of the newer Madden games, but can nonetheless acknowledge that there is a significant following for the franchise in the video game community. This isn’t necessarily because the games are spectacularly special or offer something that tossing the old pigskin around in the backyard or crashing into the couch for some Monday Night Football can’t. Madden has remained a driving force in the gaming community because it has a relatively dominant monopoly on the football aspect of the sports genre as far as video game concerned.

After all, with the release of Madden 11, there really isn’t anything that could be considered a competent competitor to the series that is currently available on any of the next-gen consoles. Backbreaker didn’t sell particularly well despite being somewhat of a unique offering due to its ample amount of glitches at time of released. Despite having these issues patched, it still hasn’t seen the game garner valuable market share against EA’s juggernaut sports series. Nevertheless, there was a time when Madden was something new, amazing and truly special to console owners everywhere.

Early on in 1990, EA hired a small company you probably never heard of to port Madden from PC to the Sega Genesis in order to take advantage of the hyper-reality that the series could bring to console owners. While the dream of bringing this reality by proxy to the console began with EA reverse engineering the Sega Genesis for the sake of undercutting Sega to save on the cartridge licensing cost – the financial finagling that occurred still resulted in the game arriving in the hands of anxious gamers.

And it was amazing as far as everyone who got their hands on it were concerned. Where other games were capable of putting six or seven players on each team in their games, Madden had 11 players on each side for the sake of authenticity. It seems like a trivial detail, but if it weren’t for such a push to make the game as close to the real thing as possible – Madden wouldn’t have put his name on it and the franchise may very well have never existed.

But, Madden does indeed exist. After all, ask any football aficionado who has a wicked boner for the National Football League and the first game they’re tell you they play on their console will usually be Madden – if not Call of Duty or Halo. But looking back at the incredible leaps and bounds it has taken over the years, it would be asinine to say that the series is still just another Football game.

For instance, the Franchise Mode that has been so well loved by the fans of the series wasn’t even included in 1997. Those not in the know will be interested to know that the mode essentially allows players to start their own mini Football Empire of sorts. They were able to play through multiple seasons as opposed to just one as was previous, which usually culminated into a trip to the Super bowl. Additionally, there were able to trade players as well as pick up players during the off-season drafts, further increasing the games realistic reflection of the sport.

The next great jump came with Madden NFL 2003, which offered a slew of features that would have knocked the socks of anyone who had only played the first incarnation on the Genesis previously. Suffice to say, helmets would have been required as a buffer for all of the blown minds.

Instead of the seasonal or exhibition games that had previously been the standard for the Madden series, expanded modes were included to give the game a degree of longevity that had previously been ignored in the series. The mini-camp challenges as well as the new option for online play via the internet on PC and more notably Xbox Live brought the Madden franchise into the 21st century and continued setting the benchmark for what gamers expected from their Football games.

Nonetheless, each successive year has seen a modicum of improvements over the previous Madden, regardless of the accusation from unfamiliar gamers that each new title is nothing but a rehash of previous game mechanics, plays and a simple changing of relevant players. However, if this was the case, why would anyone have ever stopped playing Madden 96’, which is one of the only Madden, titles I still own and perhaps the best in the series as far as I’m concerned.

It goes without saying that as long as there’s Football, people are going to want to sit down in front of their televisions and play coach, QB and running back for a little while to ease their vocal cords from screaming at the television at least once every Sunday. And while I’m not the biggest Madden fan there is out there, it would be difficult to deny that the gaming community would be better off if it had never existed. In the meantime, I’ll be busy wondering when the hell EA is going to get around to coming out with a next-gen Mutant League Football.

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